We report a series of copper(II) artificial metallo-nucleases (AMNs) and demonstrate their DNA damaging properties and in-vitro cytotoxicity against human-derived pancreatic cancer cells. The compounds combine a tris-chelating polypyridyl ligand, di-(2-pycolyl)amine (DPA), and a DNA intercalating phenanthrene unit. Their general formula is Cu-DPA-N,N' (where N,N'=1,10-phenanthroline (Phen), dipyridoquinoxaline (DPQ) or dipyridophenazine (DPPZ)). Characterisation was achieved by X-ray crystallography and continuous-wave EPR (cw-EPR), hyperfine sublevel correlation (HYSCORE) and Davies electron-nuclear double resonance (ENDOR) spectroscopies. The presence of the DPA ligand enhances solution stability and facilitates enhanced DNA recognition with apparent binding constants (Kapp) rising from 105 to 107 m−1 with increasing extent of planar phenanthrene. Cu-DPA-DPPZ, the complex with greatest DNA binding and intercalation effects, recognises the minor groove of guanine–cytosine (G-C) rich sequences. Oxidative DNA damage also occurs in the minor groove and can be inhibited by superoxide and hydroxyl radical trapping agents. The complexes, particularly Cu-DPA-DPPZ, display promising anticancer activity against human pancreatic tumour cells with in-vitro results surpassing the clinical platinum(II) drug oxaliplatin.